Archaeological context

Archaeological context

In archaeology, not only the context (physical location) of a discovery is a significant fact, but the formation of the context is as well. An archaeological context is an event in time which has been preserved in the archaeological record. The cutting of a pit or ditch in the past is a context, whilst the material filling it will be another. Multiple fills, seen as layers in archaeological section would mean multiple contexts. Structural features, natural deposits and inhumations are also contexts. By separating a site into these basic, discrete units, archaeologists are able to create a chronology for activity on a site and describe and interpret it. Artifacts in the main are not treated as contexts but belonging of them. Contexts are sometimes referred to as either positive or negative depending on whether their formation added or removed material from the archaeological record. Negative contexts are cuts. It can not be stressed too strongly how fundamentally important the concept of context is in modern archaeological practice.

uitability of single context planning

The use of context as discrete units does not necessitate single context recording methodologies but it does facilitate its use and popularity.Single context recording is a system of recording and planning which treats each context on par in the process of excavation. the system of planning creates a superimposable stack of semi transparent plans that can be stacked in stratigraphic order to reconstruct the site as it was excavated.

Context types

Contexts are often recorded by type. There is no standardization but the following are common types:

#Deposit: Any soil deposit be it a; layer, dump or fill, surfaces such as gravel roads are deposits
#Cut: Any feature defined by action of removal of other contexts be it pit, ditch or truncation
#Skeleton: Any human skeleton remains
#Coffin: coffin of any description not masonry in nature
#Masonry: Any masonry structure from steps to walls to stone-lined wells
#Timber: Any wood not part of a deposit with some function that is not exclusively an artifact

ee also

*Single context recording
*Harris matrix
*Archaeological plan
*Archaeological association
*Relationship (archaeology)
*Cut (archaeology)
*Archaeological section
*Feature (archaeology)
*Fill (archaeology)


*The MoLAS archaeological site manual MoLAS, London 1994. ISBN 0-904818-40-3. Rb 128pp. bl/wh

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